Among eyewear aficionados, Italian brand FOCA is widely believed to be responsible for some of the finest shades to deflect the sun. However, there is a small problem with the brand: it ceased operations more than 30 years ago.
But now a new generation has the chance to experience the manufacturer of yesteryear, as menswear brand Stòffa has released a collection of unsold FOCA sunglasses online and in its New York store. It’s the result of a years-long Indiana Jones-like effort between Stòffa founder Agyesh Madan and Italian eyewear historian Lucio Stramare to bring the brand’s specs back to market. .
To understand why the company was undertaken in the first place, a short history lesson is in order. FOCA was founded in 1946 in Cadore, a region in northeastern Italy synonymous with the production of quality eyewear since the 1700s. The founding of FOCA capitalized on a boom in technology and craftsmanship from within the industry after the war, and the manufacturer quickly gained fame for features such as hand-sculpted frames that hinged at 45-degree angles and for the use of naturally produced acetate which was allowed to ‘cure’ for months after being tuned to make the frames denser and stronger. “It’s the little details that are really beautiful,” says Madan Robb report.
However, changes in the industry have gradually made OFAC’s business model unsustainable. Faced with the prospect of reducing its quality and increasing the quantity to better appeal to a global market, the brand chose instead to cease its activities in 1990.
This might have been where the story ended, if not for a 2012 vintage car benefit that brought Madan and Stramare together. Stramare, whose uncle was once employed by FOCA, showed Madan some of the manufacturer’s surviving wares and the designer was hooked. The duo soon traveled to a warehouse and workshop where some of the latest FOCA materials were kept and passed on their findings to a two-person restoration team working under Stramare.
As Madan explains, the process wasn’t as simple as finding an old pair of sunglasses, cleaning and polishing them to resell. In many cases, the team found front frames and temples separately, which had to be matched based on the team’s knowledge of historical FOCA styles.
Four models in five colorways are currently available on the Stòffa site, representing the brand’s latest finds (its first batch of refurbished FOCA sunglasses released in June 2021). The Mercer Street store in Stòffa has a slightly wider range, including unique finds that have not been associated with additional inventory. According to Madan, the refurbished glasses are marketed in batches ranging from 10 to 50 pairs, depending on their findings. The oldest is from 1956, while the most recently produced pair is from 1981.
Among the restored glasses, one characteristic is not vintage: the lenses. Each refurbished pair is equipped with new scratch-resistant lenses from renowned German manufacturer Zeiss, whose production is far more advanced than the lenses FOCA would have had access to when it was still in business. “Once in a while we find a pair that has the right lenses and we try to see if we can refurbish them, but lens technology has gone so far beyond that we try to use modern lenses,” explains Madan.
Another marker differentiates refurbished pairs from their original era of manufacture – a discreet Stòffa seal. According to Madan, the decision to sell FOCA eyewear through its own label is due to a common philosophy shared by the two companies. “They loved the idea of keeping things under their control and making them to the exact specs they wanted,” he says. “They were okay not to compromise, and I think that’s a very nice thing.”